TSA Hires Agents for Busy Summer Season. Is It Enough?

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By Jaclyn Diaz

Heading to a tropical getaway this summer? A record number of passengers are expected to join you at airports nationwide.

But the time it takes to get through security and into the pool drinking a piña colada is expected to be shorter, thanks to the additional officers who will be working at U.S. airports this year, the Transportation Security Administration said.

TSA is hiring 2,230 more officers and deploying 103 more passenger-screening canine teams this vacation season compared with last year to streamline security checkpoints and ensure passenger security, Michelle Negron, the assistant press secretary with TSA, confirmed to Bloomberg BNA May 23 in an email. More than 44,000 transportation security officers work for the agency.

But a union official doesn’t agree with TSA’s assessment. The additional agents aren’t sufficient to answer the agency’s bigger staffing needs, Hydrick Thomas, TSA Council 100 president for the American Federation of Government Employees, told Bloomberg BNA.

The agency hires almost as much as it fires, so new employees don’t last long, he said.

The summer travel season kicks off with the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend and continues until Labor Day. Peak travel periods will occur in June and July, the TSA said.

High Staff Turnover

During the busiest days of the summer, TSA will screen more than 2.5 million passengers per day.

“Traveler security is our first priority and we remain intensely focused on this critical mission. This summer, TSA is preparing to screen the highest volume of travelers, with an anticipated volume growth of more than 4 percent compared to the summer 2016,” Negron said.

Last summer, passengers faced long lines at security checkpoints. The TSA moved to accelerate hiring in the middle of the summer to respond to the need. TSA anticipates screening 228 million passengers this summer.

Stress for passengers and workers is exacerbated because of the rate of turnover at the TSA, Thomas said. Rather than cooperate with employees and the union on better disciplinary or scheduling policies, TSA management moves to remove workers rather than provide an opportunity for improvement, he said.

Unless better management polices are established, passengers and TSA officers will continue to feel the pressure, Thomas said.

“Are we ready for the summer? I don’t think so,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at jDiaz@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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